Six Diagnoses of Separation: Impact of COVID-19 on Pediatric Emergency Department Visits: A Multicenter Study.

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Journal of Emergency Medicine


BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) arrived in the New York metropolitan area in early March 2020. Recommendations were made to self-quarantine within households and limit outside visits, including those to clinics and hospitals, to limit the spread of the virus. This resulted in a decrease in pediatric emergency department (ED) visits. However, it is unclear how this affected visits for some common diagnoses such as anxiety, appendicitis, asthma, headaches, seizures, and urinary tract infection (UTI). These diagnoses were chosen a priori, as they were felt to represent visits to the ED, for which the diagnoses would likely not be altered based on COVID exposure or quarantine due to their acute nature.

OBJECTIVES: Our goal was to investigate the effect of COVID-19 on common pediatric diagnoses seen in the pediatric ED using a large multihospital database.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of consecutive pediatric patients (age ≤ 21 years) between March 1 and November 30 in 2019 and 2020 in 28 hospital EDs within 150 miles of New York City. We compared the change in the number of visits from 2019 to 2020 for the following diagnoses: anxiety, appendicitis, asthma, headache, seizures, and UTI.

RESULTS: Our database contained 346,230 total pediatric visits. From 2019 to 2020, total visits decreased by 61%. Decreases for specific diagnoses were 75% for asthma, 64% for headaches, 47% for UTI, 32% for anxiety, 28% for seizures, and 18% for appendicitis (p value for each comparison < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS: We found a marked decrease in ED visits for six common pediatric diagnoses after COVID-19 arrived in our area. We suspect that this decrease was due to recommendations to quarantine and fear of contracting the virus. Further studies on other diagnoses and potential complications due to the delay in seeking care are needed.





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